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    An animal activist offers a healthy alternative to chicken and other meaty staples.

    THE offer of hot satays on a Saturday afternoon is too tempting to turn down, even though they come with a rider: home cook and owner of Catalyst Food, Marieen Vijay, tells me she makes hers from mock meat. But as I walk into her kitchen in Anna Nagar, I almost think she’s made an exception for me. On the counter are the promised satays, along with a selection of steaks, wraps, a Mandarin-style stir fry and even a ‘chicken’ curry served with idiyappam. And they smell like a meat lover’s feast. “I turned vegetarian in ‘95, around the time I helped co-found the Chennai chapter of People For Animals. I then became vegan in ‘98. But when all the meat and cheese disappeared, I went a little crazy,” Vijay laughs, recalling the early days. Then she was introduced to mock meat on her travels to South East Asia. “I began experimenting with it a few years ago, researching online and learning how to make it at home,” she explains. And after plenty of trials and errors, she’s perfected her base ‘meat’—made from soy and wheat protein.
    Today, she makes them in three pre-cooked flavours: Chinese, South Indian Spicy Masala, and a Smoky Crumble (sausage flavour), besides doing nuggets, steaks, satay and a soon-to-be-launched Oriental BBQ. “To infuse mock meats with flavours, I pre-cook and pre-season mine, so you can just heat and serve,” she says, adding that you can be as innovative as you want to be—from serving it as a side dish, to making lettuce wraps, adding it to your noodles, and even making burgers and pizzas from them. Vijay also makes vegan cakes and three kinds of mayonnaise, and plans to add nut milks and vegan butters to her menu. “I’m also trying my hand at making mock sausages. I’ve got my cellulose casings and they should soon be up for sale,” she states. As for the satays, they were delicious—slightly chewy but with a rich smokiness.

    Rs 250 for a pack. Details: 9884213332; catalystfood@gmail.com

    —Surya Praphulla Kumar

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